10 Lessons for Hosting a Community Climate Vulnerability Workshop

Written by
Victoria Herrmann
August 23, 2023

What happens when a site floods? Who, and what, is vulnerable? And how do those vulnerabilities intersect with community values?

These are the questions that guide a community in assessing the vulnerability of the values of their heritage site to climate change hazards through a Climate Vulnerability Workshop. The purpose of holding a climate vulnerability workshop is to create a space in which a group of people can meet to learn, discuss, and assess the climate change risks to the community values of their cultural or natural heritage site.

In June 2023, the Preserving Legacies team met in Wadi Musa to support the community vulnerability workshop of Petra. The Preserving Legacies Petra Vulnerability Workshop produced 10 important lessons to consider when assessing climate vulnerability with your own community:

1.     Setting co-create goals and shared objectives at the start of the workshop is essential. To assess the vulnerability of a cultural or natural heritage site’s community values together, it is important to start on the same page by setting the goals, vision, and values of the workshop together. Goals are a simple set of statements that define what you want to achieve by the end of the workshop; they are specific and achievable in the time that you have set aside for the meeting. Practically, goals provide the common, universal end point that can coordinate many actors working at different levels in different sectors of a society. And establishing key objectives that align with those goals can ensure every individual feels connected. Together, community members at your workshop can take the lead on achieving specific objectives and align their tactical actions towards a common goal.

2.     A successful workshop is dependent on an effective facilitator. When convening community members to conduct an assessment, a good facilitator can encourage the group to work together at its best and guide serious discussion through difficult topics. The role of a facilitator is to lead the planning, the instruction of discussion, and implementation of activities to move the group collaboratively towards the workshop goals. Having a facilitator that understands and is trusted by the community; is knowledgeable about climate change and cultural heritage; and has the skill set to lead a participatory workshop and key ingredients to success.

3.     Community members that take part in the workshop need to feel ownership over the process and result. Facilitating a participatory model that augments local capacity is an important means to affirming community ownership. Moving from community engagement to ownership not only ensures community ownership over the climate vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan, but also buttresses local climate literacy and capabilities. Community ownership boosts responsibility and accountability over the development and implementation of climate adaptation actions.

4.     Knowledge sharing is not a one-way street. It is a roundabout. Workshops can easily become dominated by presentations on climate science, heritage values, and metrics for risk and vulnerability. But those presenting climate models or value mapping methodologies are not the exclusive knowledge holders. All those present at the workshop have important and unique contributions from their own expertise, experience, and knowledge systems. When conducting a workshop, remember that its foundation is participatory and not one-directional information sharing, but knowledge co-creation.

5.     Climate change does not exist in a vacuum. Although a climate change and cultural heritage community vulnerability workshop is focused on climate change impacts, communities face many challenges and opportunities that parallel and intersect with climate change. Inviting a discussion of the economic, social, and human aspects of the community allows for a fuller picture of vulnerability and ultimately climate action.

6.     Focus groups can expand seats at the table. A community climate vulnerability workshop works best with representative but limited participation. 10 to 20 participants, ideally from distinct sectors of the community, allows for meaningful discussion and consensus. However, this limits the amount of voices taking part in the assessment. In order to allow more voices to engage in mapping the values and observed climate impacts, you can expand the assessment by including focus groups. Focus groups can offer additional spaces to listen and learn about community values of the site, while simultaneously sharing climate expertise.

7.     Being inclusive does not mean including everyone in the conversation at all times. While being inclusive requires everyone’s participation, it does not mean involving everyone at the same time. Recognizing when and where each participant’s involvement is most beneficial is critical to the effectiveness of the workshop and assessment. Transparently including and excluding certain individuals from distinct segments of the process allows for each participant to contribute at their best, and not overshadow the contribution of others. This does not mean sidelining any one individual permanently; rather, it allows workshop leaders to develop and implement a strategy of inclusion that is beneficial to all.

8.     Inviting colleagues to observe can create a bigger impact of climate action in your country. Your site is likely not the only cultural or natural heritage site impacted by climate change. Inviting colleagues, community leaders, or site managers from other regions of or sites in your country to observe your community’s climate vulnerability workshop can strengthen your network and lead to a bigger impact nationally. If observing is not possible, sharing your experiences through presentations or publications locally can similarly expand the impact of your workshop.

9.     Find ways to share the results with the whole community. Once the workshop has finished, the analysis and report writing stage of the vulnerability assessment begins. This requires a subset of facilitators, experts, and leaders to synthesize what was shared in the workshop and focus groups, and further analyze climate-related risks to heritage. While the production of the report will not include all participants in the writing process, you should strive to communicate regular updates to community participants throughout the process and ultimately the results. This could be in the form of a website, social media channels, community meetings, or other regular modes of communication. Remember to meet community members when they are to make results as accessible as possibe.

10. Continued engagement is essential. The end of a workshop is not the end of a relationship about climate change and cultural heritage with your community. Once the report is finished, continued communication to provide the community with a scientifically informed assessment will assist leaders in understanding climate risks, management alternatives, and adaptation opportunities. The end result of each workshop and assessment is to ultimately empower site custodians and community leaders and to place the final decision-making of climate action in the hands of the community.